Produced by the Army Pictorial Center as part of The Big Picture television series, the 1963 episode (TV 572) “Command Decision” recaps the decision by Allied leaders to launch Operation Dragoon.
Operation Dragoon (initially Operation Anvil) was the code name for the Allied invasion of Southern France on 15 August 1944. The operation was initially planned to be executed in conjunction with Operation Overlord, the Allied landing in the Normandy, but the lack of available resources led to a cancellation of the second landing. By July 1944 the landing was reconsidered, as the clogged-up ports in Normandy did not have the capacity to adequately supply the Allied forces. Concurrently, the French High Command pushed for a revival of the operation that would include large numbers of French troops. As a result, the operation was finally approved in July to be executed in August.
The goal of the operation was to secure the vital ports on the French Mediterranean coast and increase pressure on the German forces by opening another front.
The episode begins with Allied ships gathering in the Mediterranean on 15 August 1944 in preparation for Dragoon. Soldiers climb onto LCVPs as the invasion of southern France is about to begin. The decision to launch Dragoon is a controversial decision, one made by Allied world leaders in 1943. Two conferences, one in Cairo with Chinese President Chiang Kai-shek, U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill (00:53) and a second in Tehran with Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill (00:57), results in the decision to invade southern France in conjunction with Operation Overlord, forming a pincer move in an attempt to push back Nazi forces. The first conference in Cairo is held at Giza next to the Great Pyramids (03:35), and the second conference is held at the Russian Embassy in Tehran (04:27). Before Dragoon can happen, Overlord commander Dwight D. Eisenhower (07:01) orders efforts to focus on taking Rome. Allied forces enter the city on June 4 (08:31), and preparations for Dragoon are made. Planning in Naples (09:34) and other Italian ports is a massive logistical undertaking (10:43), but the under the leadership of General Alexander Patch, Dragoon is set to begin on 15 August 1944. The U.S. 7th Army and Mediterranean Allied Air Forces prepare to depart Italy (11:38), and by August 12 are on their way to rendezvous off the coast of Corsica (12:27). Orders are given and bomber crews take to the air (12:48), attacking over 70 targets. Ships move toward the beaches (13:48) and paratroopers (14:25; 15:20) fly past the beaches and drop onto French soil. Fighters take off from Corsica (15:00) and attack German forces preparing to defend the beaches. With supporting fire from sea and air, troops land on the beaches (17:40) and successfully cripple two German divisions (18:15) and capture more than 2000 prisoners (19:26). Glider-borne troops (19:36) join the fight but suffer some casualties. Allied forces push inland and encounter stiff Nazi resistance (20:24). In Marseilles, intense fighting breaks out between the all-French assault force and German soldiers (21:54). However, Marseilles is liberated on August 28, though the destruction is widespread. Allied forces push further inland as artillery guns hammer away at German forces. Allied troops and Free French forces hunt down German soldiers as more French towns are liberated. General Alexander Patch awards a local Maquis leader the Silver Star (24:54) for his efforts. Dragoon troops join up with Overlord forces, and are greeted warmly by liberated French civilians (26:07). The command decision to create Operation Dragoon proves to be the right choice, and its success is largely due to talented commanders, such as General Patch and VI Corps Lt. General L. K. Truscott Jr. (27:10), who carry it out. The episode ends with General Eisenhower (27:32) commending the men who invaded and liberated France as part of Operation Dragoon.